Summertime in Colorado

Here in Colorado I have been in the office working on a revised monitoring scheme for Phacelia formosula and critiquing the details of the initial monitoring scheme for Corispemum navicula. Phacelia formosula monitoring will be coming up in August sometime with the Corispermum sp. monitoring to follow shortly thereafter. We went up to the North Park area to do some preliminary surveys of the Phacelia sp around Walden and Cowdrey.  We met up with the Kremmling Field office Wildlife Biologist who is also responsible for T&E species, Darren Long, and discussed future plans for the Corispermum sp. and Phacelia sp. in the area. We also tested out the software on the Juno to help with the monitoring of the Corispermum sp. Darren Long gave me a big binder full of past years data and reports for the Phacelia sp. dating back to to the 80’s.

Once I returned to my office the next week, my task was to comb through the binder and try and utilize the information to create a data history of the Phacelia sp.  Unfortunately, as things look right now this is not going to happen because of the type of data collected and the process in which it was collected. The data collection method was not consistent nor was the party collecting the data. So as of right now our historical data and trend information for the Phacelia sp. is spotty at best. The hopes of comparing it to any of the data that was collected by the CO state office botanist are minimal. In addition to the monitoring of the existing plots of Phacelia sp. an overall assessment of Phacelia sp. population presences needs to be coordinated through extensive surveying of the habitat.

In the coming weeks we will be heading up to the Kremmling, CO area to monitor Astragalus osterhoutii and Penstemon penlandii. Heading up Vail to coordinate with the Betty Ford Alpine Garden to get a SOS team established and help them with a collection and familiarize their staff with SOS protocol. Then the following weeks we will be in Fariplay monitoring the alpine endemic Eutrema penlandii for a week and then on to Meeker, CO to monitor a couple of Physaria sp. in the Piceance basin for a week.

Fun filled travels to come here in Colorado.


Nathan Redecker

Lakewood, CO

BLM Colorado State Office

Learning to Laugh at Country

Sometimes there’s no escaping the country music in Wyoming. If no other stations come through, you’re assured one country and one Christian station. In light of this, I’ve tried to turn it into a game and a learning experience. So far, country has taught me some spectacular pick-up lines. Lines I only use on my dear friend, Autumn, and which she uses on me so we can have a laugh and sing a little together.

On long days of driving and seed collection, laughter is very important. Sometimes, so is dancing badly in the oil fields. Especially in celebration of the completion of our collections. Tasting edible plants, smelling flowers, hugging trees, and playing with toads are also very important.

Evening primrose population in an area known as Hay Reservoir, near the Red Desert.

Oenothera pallida spp. trichocalyx– Evening primrose population in an area known as Hay Reservoir, near the Red Desert on the eastern edge of sand dunes adjacent to gas fields and uranium mines.



The Blowout Penstemon, Penstemon haydenii, the only endangered plant species in Wyoming has a distinct vanilla scent.

The Blowout Penstemon, Penstemon haydenii, the only endangered plant species in Wyoming, has a distinct vanilla scent.

If you tell me it's edible, I will taste it.

If you tell me it’s edible, I will taste it. Better than celery, not as good as carrots.

Training at the Chicago Botanic Garden was a wonderful and much-needed opportunity to recharge. So much of the experiences and information have been invaluable back at work in Wyoming. However, stepping away from the work and from the scenery of the oil and gas fields of Wyoming, I found myself referring to the barracks as home. I missed the daily adventures with our neighbors (the bored wildland firefighters), and I couldn’t wait to jump back into community dinners and experience my first ‘Music in the Park.’ Returning to Wyoming, I suddenly had a greatly increased appreciation for the beauty of the rolling hills, the flat expanses of sagebrush steppe, and fell in love with the mountains and rock formations. Even the gas wells start to fade into the background and become less noticeable after a while. (Right, well, that last part is a bit alarming: working in this country has only increased my passion to move to alternative energy sources and reduce my personal impacts on the land. Those oil and gas wells should be painted bright orange with flashing lights so no-one can forget what they are).

Coming back from the CLM workshop in Chicago, we jumped right into collections. In one week, three species were ready to go. We’ve finished six collections at this time. Now we’re back to monitoring and we’ve started prepping the seeds for shipment and the data sheets to be sent to Megan.

We’ve also had a blast volunteering with the Fish and Wildlife Service outside Laramie, WY completing toad surveys at Mortenson Lake. The lake is one of the first sites where the Wyoming toad, Bufo baxteri, has been released and monitored as part of a huge breeding and reintroduction program. Wyoming toad populations faced a steady but rapid decline in the 1970’s. By 1984, with only an estimated 10-25 (depending on which source you check) individuals left in the wild. Pesticide use, the presence of red leg bacteria, and the chytrid fungus are theorized as causes for both the decrease in population size and the decline in fecundity. By 1998, a captive breeding and reintroduction program was introduced by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department among other partners. This is where our volunteer efforts come in. We spent one day training for surveys and two days conducting surveys. I personally found only one toad but was on the upslope side of the survey site. My partner found 26. All in all, it was a fun and productive few days and I learned so much in such a short span of time. Plus, the Wyoming toad is just too freakin’ cute!

Toads just seem to be wherever we go since the surveys. Another fabulous day was spent working with our wonderful fellow interns from Cheyenne hiking the dunes in the Ferris Mountains and looking for Blowout penstemon. The scenery was beautiful, the company welcome, the surveys were very casual and I suppose successful, and of course, we found a toad on the hike out! We believe it’s a Woodhouse’s toad, Bufo woodhousei woodhousei.

An unexpected find in a creek at the base of the Ferris Mountain sand dunes.

An unexpected find in a creek at the base of the Ferris Mountain sand dunes.

Thanks for reading my rambling!

The Great Outdoors

First I want to say thank you to all of you for either being interns, thinking of being interns, or providing the opportunities that allow for us to be or think about being interns. I appreciate you all and have a lot of respect for the paths that we have all decided to take.

I can’t stop thinking about telling my future kids about what I did out of college. The places I got to visit, animals I got to see, and people I got to meet and work with all because of this internship. As much as I try to enjoy each moment as it comes and goes, there’s something so exciting about the notion of being able to share these experiences down the road. Every time we drive to Midvale or the McConnell allotment or even just driving around Boise I’ll be hit with sudden waves of disbelief. How did I get here?? I grew up in a small beach town north of Boston and thought Idaho was one big field of potatoes. If you had asked me what I’d be doing post-graduation at just about any moment before I had heard about the CBG CLM internship I would have said anything but living in Boise doing sage-grouse habitat assessments in the Four Rivers field office. I didn’t even know what the BLM was until I came to Colorado for college, let alone what a sage-grouse was. And that’s just it, the most valuable thing I will take away from this experience is the vast expanse of new knowledge I acquire daily.

Having been turned on to plant biology fairly late in the game (Jr. year of college), I feel like I’ve only just started building a foundation on which to build my greater plant biology library. Being at the training in Chicago and in our district office with my two extremely knowledgable coworkers (Joe Weldon, Cara Thompson) I struggle with and also appreciate how much I have to learn. As hard as it can be, there’s something so engaging about doing or learning something for the first time. You’re aware of every little thing that’s happening around you and completely immersed in the moment. It’s exhausting and frustrating if you aren’t a “natural” right away, but the reward of looking back once you’ve mastered the new skill and of remembering when you were floundering trying to ID a grass or conduct a transect and seeing how far you’ve come is a great feeling.

I’m proud of myself for having ventured into a completely alien place and job and being one month away and loving it so much.

My goals for this next month are to keep asking questions, not be self-conscious about admitting what I don’t know, and to keep ‘splorin’!!

p.s. Never done this blog thing before so my apologies if I’m missing the mark but hope you all are well!

Signing off from the land of trees.

Zander Goepfert

Close Encounters of the CLM Kind

RHA Monitoring To The Max!!!

For the last couple of weeks we did Rangeland Health Assessments (RHAs)! We had to go to a site that was previously monitored the prior year and we had to monitor it again this year. We did all kinds of monitoring! Many of the BLM employees and interns worked on a variety of protocols. We did three point line monitoring transects. We spread out three measuring tapes measuring to 150 feet at 0°, 120°, 240° degrees and read the species composition and the ground type every three feet along the transect. To monitor the sage grouse, we measured the height and length of all the sagebrush in the transect. We wanted to see if this site was a healthy representation for sage grouse habitat.

The Daubenmire monitoring protocol looked at the percentage of annual/perennial forbs, annual/perennial grasses, bare ground, and last year’s plants within a Daubenmire rectangle every ten feet along a transect for one hundred feet. This could help us see the general composition percentage of plants, litter and bare ground of the site we were working on. We checked for all kinds of shrubs and assessed their age. We wanted to see how many shrubs were young, mature, desiccant (half dead…or half alive??), or dead.

The soil and site assessment looked at the soil composition to see what type of soil was on the site. We would dig a deep hole so we could look at the soil composition and soil profile. Typically, the soil was loamy to sandy on each of the sites. We can also tell what kind of soil the site had based on the species composition of the site. For example, we could tell it is a sandy site based on the large percentage of needle and thread grass (Hesperostipa comata) everywhere. One of us would go out and try to identify as many plants as possible on the site. We would develop a list of shrubs, forbs, and grasses for the plant accumulation assessment part of the monitoring. The final assessment to complete the RHAs was the erosion assessment. We looked at the landscape to determine if there were any signs of erosion such as gullies, rills, and pedestalling. Luckily, most of the sites were in good condition beyond the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) .<_<

Buffalo, WY CLM Interns ready for more RHAs!!!

Buffalo, WY CLM Interns are always ready for more RHAs!!!

The Rumble in Thunder Basin

Early in the morning the rangeland workers, wildlife biologists, and a few geologists would drive an hour and a half to different allotments in the Northern Gillette region of Wyoming for monitoring. This region looked like the Badlands in South Dakota, but the landscape was covered with a variety of grasses, forbs, and yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis). (I thought it was horrible and funny to see the yellow sweet clover grow on the back roads. Those flowers made the back roads look like the Yellow Bricked Road from the Wizard of Oz.) Many species of grasses were dominate in the sandy-loamy soils such as Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), Needle and Thread, Green Needlegrass (Nassella viridula), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), and Sandberg’s Bluegrass (Poa secunda) to name a few. There were also introduced species present in the landscape such as Japanese Brome (Bromus japonicus), Cheatgrass, and the repugnant North Africa Grass (Ventenata dubia). (/OoO)/ oh no!!

I swear, this is not a painting. This is real!

I swear, this is not a painting. This is real! This was located in the Thunder Basin!

The Gillette Region was well known for resource extraction and it was our main area for RHA monitoring. Coal, oil, and natural gas have been mined in this region for a very long time. Massive quarries could be seen with huge terex rock trucks hauling tons of coal to the transportation areas, so the resources could be hauled away by trains within and outside the United States. Some of the tires on the trucks were about 10-12 feet high! O_O Within many of our monitoring sites we would see many pumpjacks (oil horses) working to extract oil from the ground. Every so often we would see H2S warning signs and we would just roll up our windows and quickly drive through the area. (We were assured that there was nothing to fear and the dangerous H2S sites were not active in our area.) ^_^;;

Pumpjack/ Oil Horse

Pumpjack/ Oil Horse

Heather, Sara, Jill and I were working on three point line intercepts one afternoon until we heard a soft rumble. It felt like a small earthquake that only lasted a couple of seconds. We continued with work as usual and twenty minutes later we felt another rumble. All of us were curious what was causing the minor quake and we thought it was coming from the quarries. Kay and Dusty were saying that the small rumbles we were feeling were indeed coming from one of the quarries, which were using dynamite to blast more rock. Those small rumbles in the Thunder Basin were really incredible and bizarre at the same time. (I wonder if I can tell time by the number of explosions I feel in one hour?)

Beyond the man-made small rumbles, Thunder Basin has encountered many severe thunderstorms recently. Flash flood warnings, strong winds, hail, thunder, lightning, and torrential downpours were occurring all over the region we were monitoring. Luckily, we managed not to get caught in any of the thunderstorms. You could even see the hail drop out of the clouds fifteen miles away. One of the field work days was cancelled due to flooding on the main road to Gillette, Wyoming. Another bird transect surveying project was temporarily cancelled due to flash flooding and muddy roads. (Seriously, the country roads after a thunderstorm could get very slippery and muddy. Good bye car washed government vehicle, hello muddy object with wheels… <_<)

Severe Thunderstorm near Gillette, Wyoming.

Severe Thunderstorm near Gillette, Wyoming.

Thunder Basin was an amazing place to monitor! We encountered shallow explosion quakes, viewed a lot of wildlife, and monitored many interesting kind of habitats. I would never forget this region. Now, onwards to the Southern Gillette allotments for future monitoring assignments!! (/O_O)/

Field of BLM Dreams

One of the days, we all got to take a break and go to an area north of Sheridan, Wyoming to plant different grasses. Our goal was to plant nine thousand Green Needlegrass and Bluebunch wheatgrass grass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) in a prepared irrigation field located along the Tongue River. Many BLM employees, seasonal workers, interns, and volunteers were hard at work planting the grasses. We thought this project was going to take two or three days, but we managed to complete the project in one day!! Everything was all prepared and all we needed to do was visit the site a couple of times a week to turn on and off the water for the plants. Hopefully, we will create a Field of BLM Dreams for future seed collections for restoration projects. 😉

Planting Green Needlegrass!!

Planting Green Needlegrass!!

Devils Tower \(O_O\)

Devils Tower! Look at all of the phonolite!!

Devils Tower! Look at all of the phonolite!!

All of the Buffalo, Wyoming CLM interns decided to take a Sunday afternoon trip to Devils Tower! We had a very adventurous day. The tour began at the prairie dog village where many prairie dogs were active and chirping. The little prairie dogs were pretty cute and were playing with their siblings. Next, we took a short hike around the base of Devils Tower and watched different climbers crawl up the sides of the geologic feature. Some of the climbers looked super tired and every so often the turkey vultures would investigate to see if everyone was alive. We saw a variety of butterflies and flowers throughout the hike, which made us stop in our tracks and investigate the species. Later on, we met up with Heather’s friend and we were taken on a small tour of the Devils Tower Lodge. At the end of the tour, we got to walk across the slack line. The process was a challenge, but if you relaxed and stayed focused, you could easily walk back and forth on the slack line…with two poles in both hands. Also, we did not see any aliens…just a lot of alien merchandise at the gift stores. 😀

Time for a Prairie Dog Gif Comic

Click on the gif for your prairie dog moment of zen.

Whenever Prairie Dogs see a CLM Intern.